Some people may not know what off-the-grid or off-grid means, so here it is --- The term off-the-grid or off-grid refers to living in a self-sufficient manner without reliance on one or more public utilities.

Off-grid living is no longer a one room log cabin in the woods. It's energy independency. You don't have to rely on utility companies, you create your own power. Today, there are more than 180,000 off-grid homes in the US.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Firewood Supply {Kindling}...

4:28 pm - 53 degrees - clear with a light breeze...

A warm cozy fire in the fireplace is a great idea, but sometimes that fire is a challenge to start.  It doesn’t matter how much firewood we have if we can’t get the fire started!  Even though kindling is essential to heating one’s home with wood, it’s often overlooked.

So while Tony has been busy splitting and hauling firewood, I’ve been busy splitting cedar rounds into kindling.
 
We've currently have just over 6 cords of firewood split and stacked.
 
My father-in-law picked up a hatchet at a garage sale for me!
Soooo excited, it makes splitting the cedar kindling much easier.
 
one bucket of cedar kindling and one bucket
of mixed cedar kindling and odds and ends.

We’re storing our kindling in 5-gallon buckets or boxes for a couple of reasons.  Kindling is inconvenient to stack.  It’s better to contain it in a bucket, cardboard box or other container.  These hold the kindling until it can be transferred to a kindling bin in the wood box, or it can be set inside the firewood area to be used as needed.  Also, if it’s stored vertically, any dampness tends to wick away faster.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Questions and Answers...

10:42 am - 43 degrees - foggy...

We get a few comments and questions posted on our blog but for whatever reason we get way more that are emailed to us.  So here are a few of the questions and comments that we have received lately...

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I recently found your blog through your Facebook page. 
I officially LOVE your blog and what your family is doing! 
I think it’s amazing that you’re building your home yourselves! 
I just find your blog fascinating! 
 
You have never really mentioned the Prepper movement
or whether or not you are part of it.  I was wondering if
 you consider yourselves “Preppers”?  If so, I would
love to see you do more posts about it.

Thank you very much!!!  For those of you who don’t know what a “Prepper” is here’s the web definition:  a movement of individuals or groups who are actively preparing for emergencies, including possible disruptions in social or political order, on scales from local to international.

“Prepping” is all the rage right now.  There are websites, articles and even television shows about something called “the preppers movement”.  Personally I think that you could ask a half-dozen people “what is a prepper?” and get as many different ideas or views.

We believe that it simply means people are preparing for emergencies.  Prepping doesn’t have to be related to the end of the world.  Instead, I think it’s about people thinking about how to help themselves, their friends and their neighbors in case of emergencies – real world emergencies that are happening today like natural disasters, or even things like losing your job, or getting a pay cut to where you can’t make ends meet, even preparing to be cut off from society for a little while.

I don’t think we have ever really considered ourselves to be “Preppers” but I guess we do fit into that category.  Living up on a mountain we do have to be prepared for whatever comes our way.  We’ve had our driveway washout during a rainstorm {click here}.  We’ve been snowed in for three days before Tony was able to get us out.  The county has even forewarned us that during heavy snow it could be 7-10 days before they can clear our road and get us out.  So yes, I guess we are Preppers.  We have to be, it’s just plain common sense.
 
Feb 2008 - we had 10+ feet of snow that winter

For those of you who haven’t seen our Facebook page {click here}.

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I so very much long to live the kind of life you’re living
right now.  Maybe someday if God allows, we’ll be doing
what you are doing!  I’m completely inspired by you. 
My question is: did you know a great deal about
off-the-grid living before you moved off-the-grid?

No we didn’t.  Tony knew what “off-grid” was but I had never even heard of the term until we came across this property.  You don’t have to know everything up front to be able to successfully make the move to off-grid living.  What you do need to have is a real appetite for learning.  There are many things you can learn best by doing.  Experience is often the best teacher.  We have learned a lot along the way with a lot of shoulda’, coulda’, woulda’s.  Although our home is still not finished, we are still having fun and enjoying this phase of our off-grid adventure, even though we do hit the occasional speed bump.

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What do you think is holding back off-grid
living from mass acceptance?

I am sure there are several reasons for this, but the cost of land, the lack of self-confidence, and the need for peer approval seem to be the most apparent obstacles.  I know that off-grid living isn’t for everyone.  But I think there are a lot of people who haven’t ever even considered it.  I know we didn’t until we just happened to run across this property 8 years ago.  They think that they couldn’t possibly live like that, so primitive, so reclusive.  The fact is that this life is not primitive, and if anything, it is technologically advanced compared to a city apartment life.  Once we get our power system all hooked up, we’ll be using technologies on a daily basis that most people have never heard of. 

I also think that most people assume that living off-grid is a fringe lifestyle, like being a hippie.  That may be true for some people, but not for everyone.  I think some people have a problem with being different, standing out, and doing what they want because it goes against “society’s norm”.

Some people imagine our lives as something detached, like out of a movie or a book, not real and not doable by their standards.  But what they don’t realize is that it is actually very doable, and very real, but only if they make it so.  They have to take the step forward, just like we did, and make something happen for themselves.  And one day, they might just be able to sit back on the porch they built, sipping a drink from the fruit of their gardens, enjoying a breathtaking view, and wondering, just why would anyone want to live any other way.

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Have you ever had any negative experiences with wildlife? 
Bears breaking into the shed or the garbage or cougars
threatening the pets, anything like that?  Your blog is
amazing.  I look forward to every update.

Our first year living here, we had problems with raccoons getting into the trash cans.  That didn’t last very long.  We haven’t had any problems with them since and our trash cans are still kept outside.

We haven’t had any problems with cougars.  Our first winter we had cougar tracks all over the place, but we never actually saw one (we didn’t have pets at that time either).  We haven’t had any sign of them around the house since then.  About two and a half months ago one of the nearby loggers saw a mom and her cub on the ridge over from us – so we know there are at least three in the area, and they are currently keeping their distance from us.

We occasionally see black bears here and there but they seem to be more scared of us than we are of them.  Same goes for the bob cats.
 

Coyotes on the other had are a bit annoying and have been coming closer to the house these last few months – thankfully our cats are still all accounted for.  They howl, yip, yelp and bark at all hours of the day and night.  They show up and hang around the mountain ridge several days at a time, then disappear for several days.

We did have one incident with a young buck who we think saw his reflection in the truck window and head butted it, shattering the window.  The only other issue we have with the deer is that they eat all the bird food.
 
"Mom, he's watching me!"

 Since we are living in their space, we have been really lucky and have had very little problems with the wildlife.

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Keep the questions and comments coming, we love hearing from you!  To view the first Q&A post {click here}.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Uses for Wood Ash...

9:50 am - 58 degrees - windy...

With the nights getting colder, our fireplace is being used more regularly again and the more wood we burn, the more wood ash we get.  Each cord of firewood burned leaves about 20 pounds of ashes or more, depending on your fuel source, heating appliance, and wood burning skill.


Back in the old days, wood ash had many practical uses around the homestead.  It was spread over fields as fertilizer, used in the making of soap, and helped repel pests from vegetable gardens and fruit trees.  Some of these old fashioned uses for wood ash still make sense today.  Instead of putting the wood ashes out with the trash, put your ashes to use in and around your home.  Here are some great modern uses for your leftover wood ash.

Safety first – as with all aspects of wood heating, use vigilance and common sense in handling and managing your ashes.  Store them in a covered metal container set on dirt or concrete a few feet in all directions from any combustible surface.  Even though the ashes may appear cold, buried embers may remain live for days, even weeks.  Because wood ash can be harmful to the skin, always wear gloves when tackling one of these projects.

1 – Dust Baths – place cold ashes where your birds can get to them, the dust baths will control bugs.

2 – Ring Around the Rosie – spread a low ring around individual plants in your garden to deter slugs/snails.

3 – Lawn Fertilizer – wood ash contains 10-25% calcium, 1-4% magnesium, 5-15% potassium and 1-3% phosphorus.

4 – Cleaning Agent – mix with water to form a paste and use on the glass in your wood stove or fireplace.  Ditto for rings left on wood furniture from glasses.  It’s abrasive, so use with care.  Ditto for polishing silver.

5 – Great Fertilizer – for tomatoes, other nightshade veggies, and fruit trees.

6 – Sprinkle on Slippery Walks – it take very little!

7 – GREAT Ice Melt! – it’s alkaline nature makes ice melt, and then if the sun is out, the darkness of the ash creates heat, melting ice more and faster than regular ice melt.

8 – Algae Deterrent – VERY little needed.  1 Tbs per 1000 gallons of water as needed.
 
9 – Odor Control – de-skunk pets by using a handful rubbed onto your animal’s coat neutralizes the lingering odor.

10 – Enrich Compost – before the organic compound gets applied to soil, enhance its nutrients by sprinkling in a few ashes.  Adding too much, though, ruins the mix.

11 – Make Lye for Soap – soaking ashes in water makes lye, which can be mixed with animal fat (tallow or lard) and then boiled to produce soap.  It takes some work and old timers only use hickory ash, but it can be done.
 
Making lye from wood ash.
 

Monday, October 21, 2013

Too Many Projects...

12:04 pm - 70 degrees - beautiful day...

We seem to have too many projects, and not enough time.

Yes, I’ll admit it... we are up to our ears in projects (not including working on the house) and they all feel important.  I know we should be concentrating on just one at a time but it is so hard when so many of them are weather dependant.  Especially right now when it has been gorgeous out and it’s supposed to stay that way for the next week.  So we’ve been working all over the yard, on different projects trying to get them all done (or as many as possible) before the cold, windy, rainy, snowy weather hits.

Here are just a few of the larger outside projects we’re working on...

We only have a few months of the year where the ground is dry enough to move around so we are trying to take full advantage of the gorgeous weather right now and hopefully get a bridge put in.  The plan for the backyard --- you will step out the double doors onto the back patio, which is 40’ wide x 16’ deep.  Straight off the back of the patio there is a 50’ wide x 14’ deep flower bed (where the two rock stars are {click here}) that slopes down to the grassy 50’x50’ backyard (it’s currently more dirt than grass), which will also be surrounded by flower beds on three sides.  Back to the patio... off the right side of the patio is where we are going to put a bridge (wide enough and strong enough to drive a car on) that crosses over a drainage ditch to the garage pad. So yesterday we did a lot of measuring and marking. 
 

We were originally going to make the big bridge match the little footbridge {clickhere} but then Tony found this huge chunk of culvert that is 10’3” long with an inside diameter of 48”.  So we are going to cut it in half and use it to form a rock bridge.
 

Another project we’re still working on is cleaning up the defensible space {click here}.  We still have to remove about a dozen rotten snags, and burn all the huge burn piles.
 
 
 
 

And of course we cannot forget firewood...yes, we are still cutting, splitting, and hauling firewood.  It seems that this is a never ending project!
 

 

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Log Reindeer...

1:20 pm - 69 degrees - blue sky and sunshine...

Log reindeer are not only a fairly easy project to do, they are also cheap to make, and look really good paired together or by themselves.  This project is also a great way to clean the fallen trees off of your property and make some extra money. 

This was a perfect project for our Girl Scout troop’s Father/Daughter Project... we have the trees at our place, our troop gets to do a fun Father/Daughter project, then our troop will sell the log reindeer at a holiday bazaar in a few weeks to earn a little extra money for some more fun troop outings and projects.

I found several DIY Log Reindeer plans online but I liked this one the best {clickhere}.

{photo source: m.diyornot.com}
 
After I showed Tony the plans, he spent several hours cutting up a few trees to make enough parts for about 18 reindeer. 
 
{photo source: m.diyornot.com}
 
 
I think the most time consuming part was cutting all the pieces.  Building the actual log reindeer went pretty quickly.  The girls all picked out their reindeer parts – 1 head, 1 neck, 1 body and 4 legs per reindeer, then assisted in holding the logs while the dads did the drilling.  Here’s how they did it...

Tony and Caitlyn working on their second reindeer.
 
The neck and legs fit into holes drilled in the body log.  Choose the best side of the log, and drill the hole for the neck first.  Use a drill bit slightly smaller in diameter than the neck branch.  It is better to drill a small hole and cut the branch down to fit than to drill an oversized hole in the log and hove a loose-fitting neck or leg.

The neck hole is drilled at a slight forward angle, about 10 degrees.  Drill this hole at least 3 inches deep, then test-fit the branch.  You should have to whittle away some bark and wood to get a snug fit.

Next, turn the body over, making sure that the neck hole is facing straight down, and then drill the leg holes.  They are located about 1 inch from each end of the log and a couple inches to each side of the center line.  Angle the holes out about 10 degrees.  Drill these four holes the same depth so that, all four of the reindeer’s legs will touch the ground evenly.

Use a chisel to whittle the ends of the legs until they fit in the holes, and check that each leg seats properly in its hole.  Turn the reindeer over and stand him up.  If the legs aren’t exactly the same length, rotate them slightly in their holes.  Since the leg branches are not exactly straight, turning the legs slightly is usually all that is necessary to make your reindeer stand upright.

The head is installed on the neck in the same way.  Drill a hole in the bottom of the head log 1 inch or so from the back.  Then drill a slightly smaller hole than the diameter of the antler branches so that the branches will fit snugly.  Hold them in place and drill holes at an angle to match the position wanted.  The tail is made from another small branch and is installed like the other branches at the back end of the body log...and you have a completed log reindeer.
 
In just under two hours, with nine dads and their daughters, we had 13 absolutely adorable log reindeer and most importantly...everyone had a good time.
 
 

Monday, October 14, 2013

Meat. It’s What’s For Dinner...

10:38 am - 52 degrees - sunny and breezy...

There are a lot of shocking things about meat.  Sometimes I find that the most shocking thing about meat to people is that meat is actually made of dead animals!  Crazy right?  Sorry for my sarcasm, but I do seriously think we maintain a cognitive dissonance between the animals we see and the meat we eat.

One of the problems with our current food system is that there is this real disconnect with where our food comes from.  The same person who would squeal if they saw a farmer shoot a cow can easily buy packages of ground beef at the grocery store...or a package of skinless, boneless chicken breasts...or fish fillets.  While we understand what meat is in a cerebral way, we don’t really understand what that means.  We don’t equate a dead, bleeding animal with this delicious looking meal on our plate.  We literally and figuratively remove the life from our food.

Hunting wild animals for food used to be a part of everyday life – for some it still is.  Hunting may not be for everyone, but it’s a part of our lives.  Hunting is simply harvesting wild food, and we only harvest what our family will eat.


my great-grandmother in the early 1900s

Tony hunts for deer and elk every year – one deer and one elk will put enough meat in the freezer to feed our family for a whole year and be able to share some with family and friends.
Tony got a buck yesterday morning

Hunting for our own food also gives us peace of mind that the meat in our freezer has not been tainted by antibiotics, artificial hormones, pesticides, herbicides, or unnatural feeds that are not needed and are possibly harmful.

To hunt and butcher an animal is to recognize that meat is not some abstract form of protein that springs into existence at the grocery store tightly wrapped in cellophane and styrofoam.  Meat is life.  It still astounds me how many people actually believe that the meat they buy at the grocery store...is just meat at the grocery store.  They forget or choose to forget where it really came from – a living breathing animal.  In order to appreciate that big slice of steak on your plate, I think you need to also know and appreciate where it came from.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Work Weekend...

10:08 am- 47 degrees - windy and raining...

Fall.  It’s like the best of times and worst of times.  On one hand – the great temperatures and clear blue skies make it great to work long days without the tiring effects of the burning sun and sweltering heat.  On the other hand – those cooler temperatures, falling leaves, and rainy days are a reminder for us here on the mountain of what is soon to come – snow, ice and freezing temperatures.

So with that in mind – we have a lot of chores that we need to get wrapped up before Mother Nature drives us indoors for most of the winter.  The past several weeks we have been tackling the most important thing for our winter survival – firewood.

We had a beautiful, warm, breezy weekend that was great weather to be outside and continue working on getting all of our firewood for this winter cut, split and stacked.
 
 

While Tony was busy outside hauling and stacking firewood, I was busy with my normal daily routine... heating water to do the dishes and baths, cleaning the house, laundry, etc...  Then I moved outside to finish working on the firepit area (helping Tony when needed).
 
we have to heat all our water either
on the gas stove or the wood stove

dishes are done "camp style" on the dining table

this is my project - the firepit area

 
After a long day of working around the house, it was nice to sit back and relax around a roaring campfire.
 
 

Thursday, October 3, 2013

The Rain Has Stopped...

5:34 am - 47 degrees - scattered clouds...

our morning visitor

In the past week we have gotten over 11 inches of rain.  It's a good thing the rain has finally stopped because on the way home, our gate lock wouldn't open.  So the kids and I had a nice walk (.62 miles - up hill) home.

the creek is swollen from all the rain
 
walking home
 
Tony spent three days cleaning out the ditches
along the driveway and it saved our driveway

"wet rocks" along the driveway

our driveway has a lot of love :)

made it home... I just love this view!
 

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